Ask Amy: A veterinarian never gets used to animal loss

Dear Amy: I know you are an animal lover, and so I would appreciate your perspective on this.

I’m a veterinarian and always offer sincere condolences when a client loses a pet — I will send a card, make a donation to an animal charity, and often follow up with an email or phone call.

Recently I lost my much-loved dog and have been slightly appalled at the reactions of people I have known for many years.

A very few have offered condolences. The general attitude has been that I “should be used to it.”

Amy, a veterinarian never gets used to it. It is such a helpless feeling to not be able to cure your own pet, even when you logically know that everything possible has been done.

I am trying not to have hard feelings over this, but it’s difficult.

— Grace

Dear Grace: I am so very sorry. Every person who has said goodbye to a beloved pet grieves the loss of a companion and friendship connection that is very hard to describe, but should be easy to understand. Losing this connection brings on a special sort of heartbreak.

I’ll quote the late great poet Mary Oliver, whose collection “Dog Songs: Poems” (2015, Penguin) is a tender, touching, and funny tribute to the dogs who romped through her life:

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased.

It is no small gift.”

You should not have to interrupt your own grieving in order to continue to educate humans about animal loss, and yet – if the people in your world aren’t giving you what you need right now, perhaps you should let them know.

You might say, “My own experience treating animals has not hardened my heart toward any pet’s suffering and death – and certainly my own dog’s.

I will never get used to this sort of loss, and I hope you can understand that. In fact, I could use a little TLC myself right now.”

Dear Amy: I started dating my husband back in 2012. We’ve been married now for six years.

We have both been married in the past and have adult children.

He and his ex were married for 13 years. They have two boys that I have helped to raise. They are now adults.

My husband’s ex-wife is a wonderful person, she truly is. She is very close with my mother-in-law and remains in her life, which is fine.

My problem is that I have just now started to meet the “family” and I still don’t know all of them.

Whenever there is a family function on his side, my husband’s ex is always invited.

I feel like no one will ever know me because she is still always there at all the functions.

We have a graduation party to go to and she is also invited to that.

I don’t have a problem with her personally, but would like to experience family things with just that … family.

Am I being too much?

— The Now Wife

Dear Wife: Your husband’s ex has remained very close with his family — and this could be a nice result for families that can manage it. Most can’t.

But think of it this way: If she was a sister-in-law or close family friend who was present at every family gathering, her presence wouldn’t prevent you from getting to know everyone any more than any other individual’s presence would.

Basically, I’m suggesting that you ignore her status as your husband’s long-ago ex, and concentrate on your own best behavior.

Be cool, be calm, ask good questions, and let your in-laws see your sparkle.

You will further cement these relationships by hosting some of your in-laws at your own home in smaller groups (it is not necessary to invite your husband’s ex). Little by little, absent these larger gatherings, you would build experiences with them individually.

Dear Amy: I read with interest your response to the “Greg in Minnesota,” who was concerned about the increased pollution caused by individuals idling cars in parking lots.

The writer mentioned knocking on the offender’s window to confront them.

If I were giving him advice, in addition to the statistics you stated, I would say “don’t”!

You don’t know who you are confronting. Are they angry, frustrated, intoxicated, high on drugs, carrying a firearm? You don’t know how they are going to react to being confronted!

— Concerned

Dear Concerned: Absolutely! Based on the wording of his letter, I assumed that “Greg” was no longer personally confronting people. I certainly hope so.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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